For a long time, Objective-C was the primary programming language used for creating OSX and iOS applications. Objective-C is fundamentally a superset of C with added object-oriented features and dynamic runtime. In 2014 Apple introduced a new programming language called Swift which was described as “Objective-C without the C”.
Swift is fast, safe, modern, and enables a level of interactivity in development. It contains a number of features such as closures, generics, and type inference that make it much easier to use, simplifying common patterns used in Objective-C. It combines features of both C and Objective-C, without having direct built-in C compatibility and all the constraints that come along with it. With the support of Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, Swift completely redefines our understanding of mobile app development for Apple products.
After Swift’s big reveal, there was a lot of surprise and confusion in the development community as Apple claimed that this iOS coding language was to be better than its predecessor. For this reason, Swift has been the centre of discussion among many organizations.
Ever since the initial reveal, it has proved to be an overall smarter programming language, one that can create a more direct and meaningful connection between iOS app developers, brands, and end users themselves. We outline 8 main advantages of choosing Swift over Objective-C for your next mobile project:
The number one advantage to choosing Swift is arguably because of its clean syntax, which makes it easier to read and write. The number of code lines needed to implement an option on Swift is a lot fewer than for Objective-C. The reason for this is because Swift drops many legacy conventions, such as semicolons to end lines or parentheses that surround conditional expressions inside if/else statements. Another major change is that method calls do not sit inside each other resulting in a bracket mess. Instead, method and function calls in Swift use the comma-separated list of parameters within parentheses. As a result, the code is cleaner with a simplified syntax.
It’s not possible for Objective-C to evolve without C evolving first. Contrarily, Swift does not have these dependencies, which makes it a lot easier to maintain. C requires programmers to maintain two code files in order to improve the build time and efficiency of the code, which also carries over to Objective-C.
Swift, however, drops this two-file requirement, combining the Objective-C header (.h) and implementation files (.m) into a single code file (.swift). In Objective-C, you have to manually synchronize method names and comments between files. While with Swift, programmers can spend more time creating app logic and improving the quality of their code, comments, and features that are supported.
In the competitive mobile app marketplace, developing a secure app should be a priority. Swift’s syntax and language constructions exclude the several types of mistakes possible in Objective-C. This stability means that there will be fewer crashes and cases of problematic behavior. It doesn’t prevent programmers from writing bad code, but rather makes it less likely to make mistakes. This adds an extra layer of quality control during development.
Swift takes the nil code, and generates compiler error when programmers write bad code. With Swift, you can compile, and fix the errors while writing the code, which is not possible with Objective-C. As a result, Swift works better and faster compared to Objective-C when it comes to bug testing. All this gives reason to consider Swift as a safe and secure programming language.
With Objective-C, there are many issues that cause app crashes. Swift provides code that is less error-prone because of its inline support for manipulating text strings and data. Additionally, classes aren’t divided into two parts; the interface and the implementation. This cuts the number of files in the project in half, which makes it much easier to handle.
Swift ultimately requires less coding efforts when writing repetitive statements or causing string manipulation. When working with Objective-C, you’ll need to combine two strings which make it lengthy. With Swift, you just need to add the ‘+’ sign to join two strings.
Swift also provides various speed advantages during development, in turn, saving on costs. A complex object sort, for example, will run 3.9x faster than an implementation of the same algorithm in Python. That’s also better than Objective-C, which is 2.8x faster than the Python version.
Its performance approaches the one of C++ which is considered the fastest algorithm calculation arithmetics. In December 2014, Primate Labs published a report on Swift and C++ performance. Apple has made it evident that they’re dedicated to improving the speed at which Swift can run app logic.
Dynamic libraries are executable chunks of code that can be linked to an app. This feature allows current Swift apps to link against newer versions of the Swift language as it evolves over time. Dynamic libraries in Swift are directly uploaded to the memory, cutting down on the initial size of the app and ultimately increasing app performance.
Playgrounds is a feature that enables programmers to test out a new algorithm without having to create an entire app. Apple has added inline code execution to Playgrounds to help programmers create a chunk of code or write an algorithm while receiving feedback along the way. This feedback loop can improve the speed at which code can be written with the help of data visualizations. Playgrounds and Swift together suggest Apple’s efforts to make app development easier and more approachable.
Swift was announced open-source in 2015, which opens up the language to the potential to be used across a variety of platforms and for backend infrastructure. Open-sourcing Swift means that Apple will be able to get feedback from the community to make improvements on a consistent basis as independent developers contribute to the success of the language. Not only has Swift taken off successfully because it’s well structured and designed, but also because many developers have supported it.
Swift will not only supersede Objective-C for iOS app development but it will also replace C for embedded programming on Apple platforms. Programming languages don’t die easily, but companies that cling to the old inevitably will.
There are a number of factors to take into account every time organizations start a new mobile project, which is why deciding whether to use Swift or Objective-C for development isn’t always a clear-cut decision. Selecting the most appropriate language depends on the project and team context, as well as preference to a particular programming language. Swift takes a lot of useful components from Objective-C while also bringing a whole new host of features, allowing developers to write safer, more reliable code. It has quickly become the leading programming language for creating engaging, user-friendly mobile apps.